Suing spammers has always been somewhat of a publicity stunt because they never show up in court or pay civil judgments, and it does little to actually prevent your inbox from getting stuffed with black-market “V1AGRRA” offers (you get those too right?). In one of the most famous ploys, AOL raffled off a Porsche it managed to seize from a spammer.
But on Friday David Chiappetta, a Perkins Coie lawyer representing Facebook, miraculously got the spam king himself, Sanford “Spamford” Wallace, to show up in San Jose federal court. What was the magic trick? That would be the threat of criminal charges against Wallace.
The hunter’s field guide to the feral spammer, after the jump.
MySpace had already taken a crack against Wallace, winning a $230 million default judgment over junk messages he sent to the site’s users. This spring, Facebook piled on with its own suit, alleging that Wallace is now spamming Facebook users.
When Wallace allegedly violated a court-ordered injunction and temporary restraining order, Chiapetta brought down the hammer with a motion for criminal contempt. Wallace, who seems to know a few legal tricks, filed for bankruptcy Thursday, an apparent attempt to avoid Friday's contempt hearing.
Although the bankruptcy filing put a kink in Facebook's plans to ask for a default judgment, it couldn't put off the criminal contempt hearing. So Wallace, apparently awakened by the thought of handcuffs and the like, flew in for Fridays' hearing before Judge Jeremy Fogel, who promptly referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's office for possible criminal proceedings.
According to witnesses, Wallace came clad in a tan sport-coat, but was missing the more important courtroom fashion accessory — a lawyer. Chiappetta said he wasn't authorized to comment publicly on the case.
So Facebook's lawyers have won this round against Wallace. But if they're thinking of a car raffle a la AOL, they should think again. In his bankruptcy filing, Wallace lists one of his creditors as Cash Back Title Loans, which lent him $5,000 to buy a $15,000 Honda Fit. Raffling off a tiny little hatchback probably won't have the same PR effect as the Porsche.
— Zusha Elinson